Summer Goals to Thrive (and not just survive)

Ready or not, summer is here! My kids have one hour left until the bell rings and life changes drastically for the next three months. I know it rolls around every single June, but I’m still terrified. And I don’t want to be. I want to be the kind of mom that’s excited and looking forward to spending 24/7 with her kids. I’d like to be the kind of mom that loves chaos and unstructured days and endless hours at the pool. Unfortunately, I AM the mom that literally wants to go hide in a closet and cry because I’M NOT READY. I’ll never be ready. I know I’m about to enter into three solid months of power struggles, arguments, food battles, and NONSTOP negotiations over screen time. No genuine alone time to recharge my soul, no freedom to have my days play out the way I want them to, no reliable afternoon nap that I so highly depend on for my sanity the other nine months of the year.

Summer has a lot of redeeming qualities. But in these last few days of school, it’s really hard for me to see them. I thought that making a list of easily obtainable goals might give me a little more hope that these next months can be FUN. Days to enjoy instead of days to dread. In some ways, my expectations for this summer are pretty low because my ankle is still healing and I don’t have the energy or stamina to do a lot of the things I’d normally like to do in summer. But that’s giving me the freedom to accept a slower summer, a quieter summer, a summer that’s a lot more driven by what my kids actually want and not by what I think they need to make it memorable. At the same time, those day trips and outings are what usually make the summer more enjoyable for ME. I like to get out of the house and enjoy time with my kids that I can never seem to find when we’re at home all day. At home, I’m like a drill master. By necessity. If we leave the house, we’re suddenly connecting because I’m focusing on them and not the eight zillion things on my to do list and the four million messes strewn in every room of the house. So somehow I need to find a balance between all of it this summer so all four of us can enjoy the passing days.

Easily achievable goals that will make me feel a whole lot better going into the summer and can hopefully be done in the next week!

  • Clean out my car.
  • Declutter all random piles in general living spaces.
  • Clean out the fridge and freezer.

General parenting goals to survive the day to day

  • Keep a large visual weekly calendar complete with any non-negotiable errands, day trips, or appointments. 
  • Enforce said calendar so they know that there’s no wiggle room to argue and complain if something was already planned for the day. 
  • STAY STRONG in parenting, not letting them take advantage of me in my weak moments (and not letting them knowingly make me weak with their incessant whining). Remember that I’m the MOM and if they’re mad at me, I will survive it. Having a child mad at me for enforcing perfectly reasonable parenting rules should not affect my mental energy the way it would if Greg or a friend or other adult family member felt that way about me!

Fun goals for family connection

  • Go on a two night family vacation. Make it happen.
  • Visit at least 5 new dog parks in the Madison area with Annie. 
  • After summer school is over, plan and go on at least one day trip or special outing a week. 
  • Take each child on an individual date night at least once per month. Try harder to have one on one time at home in between the date nights. 

Personal achievement goals

  • Prioritize self care. Know what you need to keep your sanity and DO IT. No excuses. 
  • Make at least 10 dolls per month. Work is not and should not be my highest priority over the summer months. But I know I need it to keep myself and my customers happy, so I need to at least do the bare minimum. 
  • Read. A lot. All the time. It’s worth it, it’s not being lazy. It’s important. And fun!
  • Write more than just my weekend blog posts. I love to write and this is a good time to do it more often! 

Health related goals

  • Be able to walk regularly by September. Hopefully with daily practice I can do that. I’ll start with trying to walk to and from summer school with the boys every day in June. Work up to dog parks and day trips. And hopefully be a lot stronger by fall. 
  • Keep healthy food stocked, prepped, and ready to eat. 
  • Keep meal planning simple, but in existence. Always have easy meals ready to make and on hand, so we don’t resort to eating junk food all day, every day. 
  • Stay cool, calm, and positive. I CAN DO THIS.

And that’s it! Summer is here! We can do this!

Midweek Musings: I hate being the bad guy.

I hate when my schedule is thrown off by something unexpected. I don’t usually deal with it well. I’m very protective of my time – especially in the daytime hours. I’m driven by my to do lists and a basic agenda I set for myself the day before. I like to plan everything. And I try my hardest to stick with it. Especially on days like today, knowing it’s my last home alone day until Tuesday, thanks to an early release Friday, a busy weekend, and no school Monday. I value these hours in a quiet house alone so much. They fill me up and help me get through the busier, crazier, surrounded by people days.

So what messes with my plans more than anything? A kid home sick. Caden woke us up in the middle of the night because his stomach hurt. In the morning he said that it still hurt. But he did not have a fever, he never threw up, he didn’t have diarrhea, he was interacting on a pretty normal morning level, and he ate a big bowl of crackers. While I did believe that he didn’t feel great, I also thought he was fine to go to school. He has a very strong track record of feeling sick in the morning so I let him stay home, and an hour later he magically feels fine. And I ALWAYS regret letting him stay because he thinks he’s gotten away with something and I get upset that it’s messed up my day for no valid reason. If he were truly sick? Then that’s fine. Obviously he should be home if he’s actually throwing up or whatever. But with him – he almost never, ever genuinely gets sick.

Anyway, I told him that he had to go to school and he ran up to his room, covered himself with blankets, and just laid there crying, refusing to get dressed. So I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. We have a tenuous relationship sometimes, and I don’t want to be the person he’s supposed to trust the most – actually being the person who never believes him. Plus, I didn’t really know how to force a strong and defiant nine year old to get dressed and get all the way to school. So he stayed home.

And guess what? By the time I got back from walking Shepard to school, Caden appeared fine. Totally fine. I couldn’t help being angry. But I also tried to reign it in. I figure everybody needs a mental health day every once in awhile. I know I certainly do. I told him he couldn’t watch tv or play video games. I was hoping that a total day of boredom might make him listen to me next time I think he’s good enough to go to school.

The first few hours were fine. He was reading in his room and I was working. Then he came down and watched me edit all my doll photos and list everything, asking me tons of questions. It was sweet that he was showing an interest in what I do. But then he got bored. And angry. He wanted to have candy after he ate his lunch. He wanted to play video games. He wanted to type things on my laptop. And every time I said no he’d run away crying. And with every episode I just felt worse and worse. I hate being the bad guy. And I don’t want to punish him because he felt sick this morning. But also? I’m the parent and I KNEW BETTER. I know how much crappy food he ate yesterday. I knew he wasn’t sick sick.

He wanted to play games once Shepard got home and I’m sticking with my original no. Which believe me, is not going over well. Now I’m the one who wants to run crying to my bed to be buried in blankets. I hate being the bad guy. I hate being the reason my child is upset. I hate feeling conflicted because I never know if I’m doing the right thing or not.

It’s just been a crappy day all around. I was planning to finally take Annie on a really long walk this morning. The only one we’d have this whole week. Didn’t happen. I thought I’d be done with my batch of dolls by ten at the latest, but it was closer to noon. Then I still had to make us lunch, eat, shower. I wanted to write a different blog post this afternoon. And now I’m just venting instead.

I hate being the bad guy.

Four More Weeks

Let’s get real about this summer. For me? It’s been a huge struggle. I feel like I’ve been fighting an internal battle every single day that leaves me oh so exhausted. Not to mention the actual battles I’ve been having with my kids on a daily basis. I’m weary, I’m discouraged, and I feel like no matter where I focus my attention I am in turn monumentally failing at something else. Balance is the impossible goal.

Let me give you a few examples of how about a thousand conversations a day go with my kids.

Caden: Can I play video games?
Me: Not right this minute.
(a minute later)
Caden: It’s a new minute! Can I play video games?

Shepard: Get off me, Caden!
Me: CADEN GET OFF OF SHEPARD RIGHT NOW!
(Caden is above Shepard’s body on the couch, balancing his arms and legs around Shepard’s body, without actually touching him.
Caden: I’m not on him! SEE?! I’m not on him!

(Caden gets squirrely and bored and starts picking on Annie or Shepard.)
Me: Caden, keeps your hands to yourself!
(Starts using his head or legs to constantly touch Annie or Shepard.)
Caden: I’m not touching him/her! See! My hands are to myself!

Shepard: What can I dooooooooo?
Me: Go find something to play with.
Shepard: Video games are something to play with, so I’m playing video games.
Me: No. Find something else.
Shepard: No! You said play with something, so I’m playing video games.

Shepard: I’m so hungrrrrrryyyyyyy. What can I eat?
Me: Yogurt, carrots, peapods, peaches, apples.
Shepard: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. I’m HUNGRY!!! What can I EAT?!?!

I am not joking, these types of conversations happen with EVERY SINGLE INTERACTION I have with my kids during the day. All day, every day. They live to look for loopholes in everything I say. I just want to shove my head under a pillow and hide. It’s completely exasperating! And they think it’s hilarious.

For some reason this summer has been so different from last. Maybe the novelty of having a house and neighbors to play with has worn off. There have definitely been a lot less kids around than last year. Last summer the boys spent all day every day outside with friends. This year it’s happened maybe once or twice? Caden’s best friend who lives on the same block as us hasn’t even come over a single time since we got Annie in March. Caden’s gone to his house once. What is going on? And getting them to play outside on their own is nearly impossible. It’s been a very hot summer and I get not really wanting to hang out in the blasting heat. But they can’t seem to find things to do inside on their own either. Like ever. If they’re not outright asking for video games, they are asking me what they can do. Over and over and over and over again. It’s making me INSANE. Stop making me micromanage your life! I have enough going on in my own head. It’s so incredibly tiring.

In the midst of everything, I try to remember that in summer, mothering is my highest priority. Trying to make sure they have some good memories to look back on is important to me. But…working is important to me too. It’s slightly alarming how much business has dropped in the last few months. Summer is when I really love to bring in some extra cash for farmer’s markets, craft fairs, day trips, etc. And it’s just not happening. Maybe because it’s a slow buying season I can validate having a slow making season and just roll with it. But I can’t help worrying and stressing that I’m not doing enough, I’m not making what the people want, and I’m just plain not good enough anymore. I have such high hopes every day that I’ll be able to put in a few hours of real work between everything. But life just gets in the way. Kids and Annie, and when they’re actually leaving me alone the cats start bugging me (always!), they are in my facing and demanding something from me all day long. On the rare days I do put in a solid couple of hours, like this morning, I usually just give in and let my kids watch tv or play video games for hours at a time because I just can’t deal. And then I feel like an awesome and creative maker, but it comes with the price of being a terrible mom. There is no middle ground!

And this is just focusing on my two main priorities for the day. Housework? Laundry? Cooking? Gardening? Exercise? HA! No time for any of that. No energy, no motivation, no incentive.

Anyway. Two months of summer are behind us. June flew by with summer school. July was a whirlwind of traveling and family get togethers. We were busy, certainly, but I also felt out of control. We did fun things and I’m not complaining about it. But my life did not feel like my own because there were just so many places we needed to be and things we needed to do. I like feeling like I have more control over everything. And this summer, control is not in my hands! Even things as simple as grocery shopping. I don’t have control because my kids can’t stand me taking them on errands and do everything in their power to make the trip miserable. I have to set aside the notion of so many little things I’d love to do to make myself happy because I know they’ll throw such a fit about it that it’s just not worth the effort. Even things like listening to podcasts, an audio book, or watching a tv show while I sew. I listen for two minutes then have to stop because someone interrupts me. Five minutes, stop. Thirty seconds, stop. I finally just give up because what’s the point?! Nothing I do during the summer belongs to me. And some days, that’s a hard truth to face.

(Shepard has asked me no less than six times since I started writing this, “What can I DO??”)

So we’re to August now. There are exactly four weeks until school starts. And I want these four weeks to count. I want them to be filled with fun and laughter. I want my kids to realize I made choices about our days with them in mind. I want to loosen up about feeling like I need to work. But I don’t want to give it up either, because it makes me happy. I’ll continue to search for that nonexistent level of balance that I think will finally make me feel like I’m doing enough in every area of my life. It’s probably impossible. But I’m going to try!

New Jersey Vacation, Week of Craziness, and Baby Hudson

WHEW. These last 12 days have been a whirlwind of craziness. We’ve been so busy! It’s been fun, we’ve spent time with a lot of different people, and we’re exhausted. 🙂 I have lots to report on! I decided to combine everything that’s happened into just one blog post, but I’ll try to keep it as brief as possible.

Tuesday, June 27th

Tuesday was a day of packing and organizing for me. But it signified the start of vacation because Greg and his dad, Steve, left in a van to drive to New Jersey. They were bringing out a large piece of furniture and decided to make a little road trip out of it. They took all of our luggage, so I had to be fully packed by Tuesday afternoon, even though we weren’t leaving for another 24 hours.

Wednesday, June 28th

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The boys had their last day of summer school. I thought they’d be upset about missing the real last day on Thursday, but I don’t think they cared at all. In the afternoon we got picked up by Cindy (Greg’s mom) and drove to the Milwaukee airport. Traffic was a pain and it was pouring rain, which didn’t help! But we made it with plenty of time to spare.

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We ordered them new, smaller backpacks to be more manageable. The boys waited on the porch for the mail lady and they were delivered at 2:50. We left at 3:00. Close call! They didn’t have any anxiety about flying this time around. Old pros!

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We went on a couple walks around the airport and had Auntie Anne’s pretzels for dinner. On the plane, Shepard and Cindy sat together and Caden sat by me. It was a smooth and uneventful flight! We arrived in New Jersey at about 9:45 and were picked up by Greg and his Uncle Mike.

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We arrived at Uncle Mike and Aunt Zab’s house around midnight. The boys wanted to jump right in the pool! Fortunately, we were able to get them settled into bed pretty quickly because we had an early morning planned.

Thursday, June 29th

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Thursday was Uncle Mike’s 60th birthday. Kind of the reason why we were visiting. Also because we (the three/four of us) haven’t been out there since Caden was eight months old.

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The boys were quick to check out the pool while everyone was getting ready for the day at the beach. Caden halfway “fell in” multiple times.

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We drove to Long Beach Island, where Mike and Zab have friends with a house on the beach. They let us park there, use their bathroom, and use their beach passes. The boys were so excited to run in the ocean. I don’t think they were expecting it to be so cold! It was also super windy that day, so down by the water was pretty chilly in general. I spent the whole time completely covered in towels. Partly because I was cold and partly because I hate the sun.

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I brought my real camera on the trip, but ended up taking a lot more phone photos. I feel so guilty because I have a pretty nice camera. And I only really use it these days to take doll pictures to put up on etsy. Instagram is my joy, though. This picture is so happy! Caden had a blast.

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Shepard was a little more hesitant about actually going in the water, but he had a really good time too.

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Beach people, for a day. Greg and I kind of can’t stand beaches. They’re fun to be at for like half an hour to see the water and take pretty pictures. But the sun, the sand, the inescapable heat – not our cup of tea! But I’m glad the boys, especially Caden, got to start the trip doing something he really wanted to do.

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Recruiting people to help with sandcastles, and then sitting in a chair while they do all the work.

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Sno-cones from the ice cream truck. Caden’s fell in the sand right after the picture.

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We went back to their house sometime in the late afternoon. The boys immediately went in the pool for almost the rest of the day!

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We had a birthday dinner for Mike and cousin Liz brought fancy cupcakes.

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I had half of this concoction, which was delish. And that was it for our first very full day in New Jersey!

Friday, June 30th

Friday was our scheduled day for New York. Originally we were going to take the boys around to some of the bigger sites in NYC, but I strongly argued that Caden probably wouldn’t be very cooperative. Just like in San Francisco last fall when we tried to bring him to all kinds of cool places, all he wanted to do was sit in the hotel. I’m not sure what it is, but if he doesn’t want to go somewhere or do something he’s going to try his hardest to ruin it for everyone. I really hope this is something he grows out of, or we’re just never going to be able to take him on vacation with us. Anyway, we compromised the plans with a ferry ride from New Jersey to the Statue of Liberty. Before the trip, it’s something both boys were very excited about seeing.

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At the New Jersey September 11th Memorial.

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On the ferry. It was hot out!

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Ellis Island. I went here on a high school trip to NYC. It was pretty cool!

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Lovely family picture. 😛

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After extensive security measures, we made it into the statue. We only had pedastal tickets because the crown tickets have been sold out for months in advance. Plus Shepard would have been too short to go to the top anyway. Caden’s foot was hurting, so we took the elevator up. He was feeling pretty emotional at this point. I chalked it up to being very, very tired. I let it fly for this particular outing. It really sucked how much he tried to ruin the rest of the trip, though.

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Finally found everyone else. Even with Steve holding onto Shepard, this picture terrifies me. Shepard is SO CLUMSY.

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In the museum area, trying to stay cool a few minutes longer.

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On the ferry back to NJ. I just have to say that I’m super impressed with how well Shepard did on the trip, despite a lot of missed sleep too. He was so cheerful and up for everything!

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Back at the house. Caden was happy again because he could swim.

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Shepard was in love with their dog, Piper. I’m not sure Piper quite reciprocated the feelings at first, but by the last day she was following him around.

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We spent the afternoon just relaxing. I read a ton and drank the mojito Liz made me.

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And finished the night with another birthday celebration!

Saturday, July 1st

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I gave the boys each a trip journal. Caden seemed to enjoy writing in one in San Francisco, so I thought they might like it. Shepard only wrote the first two days, but I loved what he had to say. So adorable!!

Saturday was supposed to be our down day. Just swimming and hanging out at home. I did a lot more reading while everyone was swimming. It was nice and relaxing.

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In the afternoon, Mike arranged for us to go to Keansburg Amusement Park with Zab’s sister-in-law, niece, and nephew. We (not me!) did the bumper cars first and were the only cars on the track!

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The adults (again, not me!) kept dishing out money for the kids to play all the carnival games. Caden got super angry that his second prize wasn’t big enough so that was it for him. Ruined the rest of the day for himself and Greg. But the other kids had a blast! I love Shepard’s rainbow donkey.

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We got Dip’n Dots to cool off. It was SO HUMID there. Right after we got the ice cream there was a total downpour. Fortunately we were standing right next to the arcade, so we had a place to stay dry.

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For dinner that night we went to a place called Jakeabob’s. (Greg and Caden stayed home since someone’s attitude had not yet improved.) The restaurant was outside on a pier over the ocean. The food was delicious! I had Tinga Tacos that were so spicy and perfect. We managed to finish our food and get out of there just seconds before another downpour.

Sunday, July 2nd

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Another lazy morning as everyone got ready for a 4th of July party.

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The party started around noon. I spent most of the day inside because I started getting a heat rash on my arms on Saturday and every time the sun touched my skin it would flare up again. So I’m sure I looked super anti-social since everyone was outside, but I just couldn’t deal with another day in the sun. Summer is NOT my season.

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But, the party was lovely! Just a couple extra families, lots of pool time, delicious food. Caden was having the time of his life entertaining and playing with people in the pool. For a kid who seems to have so many introverted tendencies, he sure comes across as an extrovert if a pool party is involved!

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In the evening, Uncle Mike brought out tons of sparklers for the kids and a couple of big fireworks.

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It was a very nice final full day to our trip!

Monday, July 3rd

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Our last day! Greg and Steve left with the van around 8am. They were driving to Pittsburgh where Greg had plans to stay with his good internet friend for two nights. Steve continued back on his own, staying at a hotel, and picking up Sarah on the way back, who was in Chicago visiting Melissa. We definitely had some complicated traveling plans between all of us these last two weeks, but it somehow all worked out flawlessly.

We spent our last morning just swimming and relaxing. The boys were pretty sad to leave Piper. It was a good incentive knowing they’d get to see Annie, Jack, and Rory that night, though!

Anyway, our stay in New Jersey was really nice! Mike and Zab were such good hosts. We had so much space too, which was awesome. The boys loved playing video games with cousin Adam and going on walks with Liz and Piper. We’ll definitely have to visit again someday.

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Back on the airplane, going home. This flight felt like forever to me. But, uneventful. We made it back to Wisconsin, to Cindy’s car, and on our way back home.

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About fifteen minutes into the drive Shepard finally stopped talking and I looked behind me and he was bent over with his head in his hands. NEVER a good sign with him. He gets migraines that come on in a split second and if you don’t get him medicine and in bed immediately, he WILL throw up. Which is very, very unfortunate if we’re not at home! I was ripping through Caden’s backpack trying to get the bag at the bottom that was carrying his wet swimsuit. But I wasn’t fast enough. Shepard had already thrown up everywhere. EVERYWHERE. We drove until we could stop and spent quite awhile cleaning him and the car up enough to get back home. It was a pretty crappy end to the trip.

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Finally, we were home! My mom came over earlier with the cats and went to pick up Annie so she’d be at home waiting for us. Which considering Shepard’s explosion, I’m super glad we had arranged ahead of time! It was awesome to get back home to her! I’m not really sure how I feel about the place we boarded her. Their website said that they’d send photos and updates, but they never did. On Thursday night I emailed to ask how she was doing. They said great and that she had fun playing with all her new friends. I figured since I asked once they’d send me more updates, but never heard a word. I assume she had a good time because she loves playing with other dogs more than anything in the world. But the lack of promised updates was very disappointing. Anyway, she’s been unusually tired this week too, so I think she really had a great time while we were away!

Tuesday, July 4th

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I was able to reserve a spot the night before for the parade. I thought it would be too late, but we got the same spot as last year. Right around noon we wandered down there and I got some cheese fries from the fire station fundraiser.

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We watched the parade for about 15 minutes, but were all just SO hot and SO tired. Shepard started bawling the first time another kid beat him to a piece of candy and I just didn’t want to be there for two more hours. So we went back home and had some quiet time instead. Much needed!

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In the afternoon we went over to my mom’s house to spend some time with my Uncle Jerry and Aunt Toni who were visiting from Arizona. We had a delicious meal and hung out in the yard with the dogs. Unfortunately, when we weren’t looking, Annie managed to get over my mom’s fence. Now that she knows she can do that, it might make visiting with her a lot more stressful. 🙁

After a few hours we swung by Noe’s to pick up all our luggage, that Steve had brought back in the van. Then back home again to do more laundry and more resting. I wanted to go to bed early SO badly. But the boys were so well behaved all day, they really wanted to see the fireworks, so we powered through.

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At 9:00 we left to walk to Fireman’s Park. Last year we only walked about halfway and could only see about half the fireworks over the trees. So this year we wanted to get the full experience. I was expecting it to be jam packed because of the carnival and band, but there was plenty of space to sit.

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We ended up having perfect timing! I’m really glad we stayed up for it. The boys cuddled on up on my lap and we enjoyed the show. The walk home was very long and exhausting, but overall, a really good holiday!

Wednesday, July 5th

Late Wednesday morning, I brought the boys over to my mom’s house and headed to Milwaukee to pick Greg up from the airport. Then we went to my cousin Jenny’s house where there was another family gathering with the aunt and uncle from AZ.

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The boys had such a great time playing with their (second?) cousins. Even though we all live relatively close to each other, we never seem to have time to get together anymore. It was fun to catch up with everyone.

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I was pretty dead tired at this point. We headed back home and planned to go right to bed. BUT, we got word that Timmy and Brittany were in the hospital. The baby was coming! When it seemed like things were progressing, I wasn’t able to fall asleep I was so excited. So…I didn’t really sleep that night.

Thursday, July 6th

BABY HUDSON IS BORN!

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My very first nephew was born at 2:03am on Timmy and Brittany’s 5th wedding anniversary. Hudson Taylor Braatz was 6 lbs, 1 oz and 18.5 inches long. It sounds like everything went pretty smoothly. I was so excited!! I’m an aunt! The boys have their first first cousin! We have a baby in the family again! Super exciting. 🙂 🙂 🙂

So Thursday morning we spent working in the garden a bit and pulling out all our failed radishes. Then we had to go to Caden’s therapy session. And then we headed to Milwaukee to meet Hudson!

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I got lots of time to hold him first while Greg, Timmy, and the boys went to get some Ian’s Pizza for dinner. He was SO tiny!!

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Caden loves babies and toddlers so much. He’s going to have a lot of fun with Hudson in the coming years!

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Shepard was not ready to hold him yet. But he was very curious!

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Super congrats to the new family of three! I hope we can go visit him again in the next week or two. Such a cutie!

Friday, July 7th

We all had a much needed fairly quiet day at home. Greg was working, but at home.

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The boys had their first bath in forever. They showered a few times in New Jersey, but really needed a soak!

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On Friday afternoon we went over to Noe’s. Sarah was still visiting and we gave her her birthday presents a little early. Then we headed out to Oshkosh for a visit/dinner with Steve’s side of the family.

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More cousin time! Even though they’ve just gotten their first real cousin this week, I’m so thankful we have all these other branches of our own cousins’ kids for the boys to play with. It seems like especially in the last year or two, they’re really enjoying the benefits of cousin time whenever it can happen.

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We’re so tired.

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Caden reading Trevor a book to stop all the wrestling and running. That lasted about ten seconds.

Anyway, we had pizza and dessert, stayed a few hours to hang out. It was fun! I look forward to our next gathering when I’m not about to pass out from exhaustion.

Saturday, July 8th

Almost done, almost done. I don’t think I’ve ever had this much social interaction in such a short period of time. It was fun, truly. But…it was a lot. By Saturday I was SO ready to just be done and have life go back to normal. But we had one more big event – a wedding for a Noe family friend that they grew up with.

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Back to Milwaukee for the fourth time this week! My mom came over to watch the boys and Annie because it was a no kid wedding. Which kind of irritated me at first, but it ended up working out really well. Greg and I really needed a day away from them! And they really needed a low key day of just being at home.

The ceremony was short and sweet. And then with a big gap before the cocktail hour and dinner, on a whim Greg suggested we book it across Menomonee Falls to make a showing of Baby Driver. We NEVER do spontaneous things. But it was perfect! It was exactly what we needed. Chill out time together. No talking necessary. It made me so happy that we did something fun FOR OURSELVES after basically two full weeks of focusing all our attention outward. I’m glad we went. 🙂

The reception was a bit crazy. The wedding couple had so many friends!! 250 people crammed into a room where almost nobody could move! The dinner lasted 2.5 hours. It was a lot. Lovely wedding and I’m glad we could be there to celebrate with them. But by the time the dancing started, we were ready to head out!

Sunday, July 9th

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And finally, the last of our daily commitments! I met my parents in the morning and we went to the annual Swan Park Craft Fair. Usually a huge craft fair, it really seemed to be lacking this year. Kind of disappointing, but still fun. I bought three dip mixes, sour cherry balls for Greg, and a pair of vintagey crystal earrings. Afterward we had our annual lunch tradition at Cousins. And a trip to Twisted Sister. Then my parents left to go visit Hudson and I went to Sun Prairie to do all my grocery shopping while I could do it alone. Then I went home and crashed!

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While I was gone, Greg was working on odds and ends. He got some chicken wire to wrap around the fence I put up originally. I was trying to keep the bunnies out because last year they ate all our peppers. But apparently the bunnies here are very skinny because they could jump right through the holes. Hopefully it’s well protected now. I want those peppers!

Looking Ahead

And that’s it! Our two weeks of insanity are over! They were really a lot of fun, but I am so tired now. I want normal back. It makes me so sad that summer is basically half over and I feel like it hasn’t even truly begun yet. Those lazy days of chilling at home, playing with friends, going to the pool – they haven’t even started yet. We have a lot of things to fit into these next eight weeks before school begins again.

This week, though, is about recovering. Getting the house in order, resting, making dinner for the first time in two weeks! I’m also hoping to get back to work in the next day or two. Hopefully some pool days. Maybe going to see the new Spiderman movie. And catching up with some friends. I’m excited about having a boring life again. I can only handle so much excitement! 🙂

Catching Up and Belated Father’s Day

Whew, it has been a busy couple of weeks! So much busier than I expected them to be. Life is definitely full. I’ve barely had time to even sit down at my computer, much less write out a blog post. But I miss it! So I thought I’d try and recap everything that’s happened since my last post.

Summer School

Summer school is in full swing. The boys go there from 8:30-1:00 every day. They took the same sports class and dance class. They both also have an engineering class, but different levels. And Caden is in coding – his favorite class and Shepard has art – his favorite. They find each other at lunch so they can always eat together. It’s kind of adorable. Even though they fight so much at home, they really do have such a close relationship. I hope it’s always that way. Overall, summer school has been going pretty well. We had one pretty tough day last week when Shepard claimed he was sick, so I let him come home and he clearly was fine. Trying to get him back to school was a nightmare. Deja vu of last summer when every single day of class was about the worst day of my life. Though worse this year because he knows better! I’m not sure what that was all about last Tuesday, but he’s been fine again ever since.

Walking

Every year since Caden first started speech therapy summer school when he was three, I’ve used that time to go on long walks. It’s one of my favorite parts of summer. This year has been no different, except that I have a dog accompanying me. Last week was really hot, so it was hard to walk for too long, but we still got a bit of time in. This week with the temperatures much cooler, Annie and I have been going for two, three, four mile walks every morning. It’s definitely more of a challenge with her in tow, but I love to have the companionship. It’s one of the reasons I really wanted a dog and I’m glad I’m sticking with it and making this happen. Plus it’s just really good exercise! For the last week and a half I re-devoted myself to reaching a step goal every day. I’ve also started counting calories. Which some days has really sucked. But overall I’ve been feeling better and have a lot more energy. So I’m going to try and stick with it.

Therapy

Last week Greg and I met with a child psychologist to talk about our struggles with Caden. Or…Caden’s struggles with us. It was more of an introductory session and we’re going back today with him. I liked this psychologist much better than the one we tried a few years ago. I hope it goes well. For all of our sakes. But I think Caden could really use the help and I’m hoping he’s old enough now to understand why he’s there.

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Wonder Woman

Last Friday we went to see Wonder Woman. We went as a whole family because Greg really wanted to see it and it’s just so much easier to not find a babysitter! It’s kind of exciting that the boys are getting older and we can do more things like this, though.

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The boys spent the whole moving basically crawling all over Greg trying to find the best cuddling positions. It was a little long and slow for Shepard’s attention span. And he kept asking questions at normal volume. But as Greg pointed out, he bought tickets first and the only other people there picked seats right next to us, so it was their own fault they had to listen to Shepard’s talking during the movie! 🙂

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Early Father’s Day

We had sort of an early Father’s Day celebration with Greg’s family on Saturday night. His sister Melissa and her boyfriend Andrew were in town, so we wanted to spend some time with them. We had a nice dinner, gave Grandpa his presents, and played Codenames. After another outrageously hard day with Caden, it was a nice way to end the night. Look at that smile above. There’s definitely a happy kid inside of him. I just wish it came out more often.

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Father’s Day

Sunday was Father’s Day. Greg decided to have a relatively low key day at home. We let him sleep in as late as he wanted, made him his favorite cherry coffee cake for breakfast, and gave him his presents.

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Such happy smiles. 🙂

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Oh how I wish Shepard could stay so small and adorable forever. All his smiles and giggles make me so happy.

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They are always so highly amused by the cards that they make.

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Very funny. 🙂 We gave Greg a video game he’s been wanting, two pairs of shorts, a Guardians of the Galaxy Mad Libs, and a book about the 1700 best pizza restaurants in the world.

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So the plan for most of Father’s Day was to have my family over for a party. But my mom got sick, so neither of my parents came. And since they didn’t come one of my brothers didn’t have a way to get here. So it ended up just being my other brother and sister-in-law. It did kind of feel like a lot of work for just having two extra people here for our “party.” But all that work was already put in on Saturday, so the party was on! I made Greg jalapeno popper dip and my dad a hot Maui onion and bacon dip.

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Can’t have a party without punch!

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Pulled pork and bbq chicken sandwiches.

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And a “cake” with a brownie base and then peanut butter mousse, chocolate mousse, and chocolate whipped cream frosting. It was definitely a labor intensive dessert and I was just happy the mousse layers stabilized and didn’t fall apart!

It was a pretty relaxed little party. The weather was incredible. We had every single window in the house open because there was such a wonderful breeze. It felt like my perfect kind of early summer day. Everyone spent some time outside, the boys showed Uncle Timmy the video games they’ve been working on, we talked about the quickly approaching baby’s birth (!!!). It was a nice day! Kind of disappointing it didn’t go as planned, but what can you do? After Timmy and Brittany left I was pretty beat and still had cleanup to do. So Greg took the boys to drop some food off for my dad and then spend a little more time with his parents.

As a side note to this recap blog post, I just want to say that I am so, so thankful for Greg as a father to our boys. He’s the best dad I could have ever imagined he’d be. He’s so selfless and giving and always, always there for them. They will never doubt his love for them and he will probably always be their biggest supporter. I’m not good at saying it out loud, but I think it all the time. We are SO blessed to have him in our lives.

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Work

Ah, work. This has been a real struggle, you guys. Will working at home ever not be a struggle? I do have to say that this week I was determined to make sewing my main focus. And I’ve done well. It’s hard to make that my daily lifestyle, though. There’s always so much else going on. Especially in summer. But this week, the last three days, I finally buckled down and made these cute little mohair animals. They almost never sell because they’re too expensive, but I like making them. They’re entirely hand sewn and it just feels so awesome to start with so few supplies and just my hand and end up with an adorable little teddy bear or monkey! Yesterday I started on a big batch of dolls since that’s what my customers actually want. I’m hoping I can get them done by the weekend, but that’s probably very ambitious thinking.

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Obedience Class

I can’t believe we haven’t even had Annie for three months yet. She’s basically half of my life. So much of my day is centered around what she needs to be a happy and well cared for dog. For the most part, things are going really well. But we’re definitely still struggling with her over-excitement, jumping on every single person she sees, and pulling so hard on our walks. I heard about a free obedience class last night, so I signed us up to check it out. When we arrived, there wasn’t another dog in sight. I was frustrated to think that it must have been cancelled and nobody let me know, so we went on a little lakeside adventure. Annie kept diving in the water trying to go after ducks. She’d walk as far she could with just her head above water and then turn around, run back, and do it all over again. So even though dogs supposedly all know how to swim, Annie definitely doesn’t know she knows how to swim!

Anyway, I got a call back that the class was only moved back an hour and I wasn’t on their list, even though I did sign up. So we went back to the other park and tried out our first class. It was challenging. And stressful because Annie just wants to play with other dogs SO MUCH. But it was also very helpful. I learned a few tricks to try with our problem areas. And I also think I’m going to sign up for their next eight week session of classes. It feels like a worthy investment. I want to have better control over her. And I want people to stop giving me unsolicited advice on the streets about what I’m doing wrong. 😛

Moving Ahead

Well, I think that’s about it for the last week and a half! It’s been busy. As a bit of a Sunday Intention vibe to end this post… For the next few days I’m still focusing on work. But I’m also hoping for a little down time. I’ve had very little of that lately. I need to remember my goal of doing lots of reading this summer! It might be a good afternoon for a book!

Spring Break 2017: Part Two

Well, the second half of our spring break was a lot more low key than I had hoped because of Caden’s double pink eyes. We started giving him Shepard’s prescription antibiotic drops on Saturday night, but they didn’t seem to be helping much. Monday I decided to start giving him zyrtec in hopes it would take away some of the swelling. Then we tried Shepard’s other prescription eye drops (both from a week and a half ago with the whole allergy fiasco, neither drops Shepard actually used), and those finally took away some of the red. But because of how awful he looked, I didn’t want to take him anywhere where other kids would be around. Or places like Ponderosa where he’d be getting his own food while looking highly contagious. So we had to get creative in our adventures.

Monday

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In lieu of Caden both looking and feeling miserable, yet still behaving really well, I decided to give them their video games back. So we had a lazy morning of them gaming while I was trying to take care of a bunch of odds and ends, trying to get my life back on track. We made plans to go “hiking,” and couldn’t decide if we should bring Annie or not. I really just wanted to have the time with my actual children, so we brought Annie to the dog park for a little while first to wear off some energy before we left her in the kennel. As always, she had a great time! She also managed to find a gigantic puddle somewhere and soak half her body in muddy water.

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Ready to hike. We found the other end of the Yahara River Trail and planned on walking to the point where we turned around from the other trail’s end last time. This portion of trail was a mix of residential backyards and farm fields. Not a lot of woods to explore.

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Chatting away. 🙂 They were discussing what kind of Pokemon could be found in the landscapes around us.

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Playing with a weird vertical branch. Some lady walked by and scolded me for letting my kids play in the irrigation garden, or whatever that flat area Caden’s standing in was called.

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Caden never complained, but it was pretty obvious he did not feel well. He kept stopping at every bench and sitting down. And he looked like this. So we didn’t make it to the point where we stopped before, but I think we were close! Overall we hiked about two miles. I love that trail, though! Someday I really hope to walk the whole thing at once.

After the walk, we went out of our way to find the Popeye’s I saw was in Deforest. I always think their fast food is pretty good and it’s rare around here. But we should have skipped it. The guy taking my order was impossible to understand, he didn’t ring me up for what I asked for, they were out of fries (fries!), and the whole thing was just bad. I wish we could have gone to Ponderosa like the boys wanted. I’m hoping to make it up to them sometime in the next few weeks.

Monday afternoon I crashed again while the boys played more games. Then when Greg got home I left him in charge of a leftover dinner while I went to run some errands. My main goal was to find gardening supplies. I’m feeling very ambitious with all our garden goals this year! It’s sure to be more than I can handle, but I’m going to try anyway. I just need to do as much as possible before allergies kick in full force!

Tuesday

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After another lazy morning for the boys and catch up morning for myself, I made everyone come outside to help me on the garden projects. My first priority was the little strip we have between our driveway and house. Last year we totally couldn’t keep up with all the weeds and it looked pretty horrible. So today I dug out all the weeds, raked up all the leaves that settled over winter, and started covering the area with black mulch. I could only fit three bags in my cart last night, so that obviously wasn’t nearly enough for the project! But I think it’ll look really nice when it’s done! There are two rose bushes in that area, but I’m hoping to use nice potted flowers to fill in the gaps this year.

Second order of business is our vegetable garden. I started digging up the edges of the three sides. I plan on fencing it in because the bunnies kept eating it all last year. But I can’t make up my mind if the fence should be on the inside or outside of the clothesline poles. We don’t really use the clothesline other than to put pool towels out in summer. But they’re cemented in, so they’re not going anywhere! Anyway, the garden is feeling really, really big. But we’re also planning to plant a lot of stuff! I’m hoping we can get the sod dug up and everything fenced in and ready to go in the next couple of weeks.

That’s all I managed to do today, but I’m also thinking about a small flower garden along the edge of the garage in the backyard. I thought it would be a good place for the boys to plant sunflowers with some other bright flowers in front of them. But that’s also where Annie’s tie chain is going to constantly be pulled through, so I’m not sure if it’s a good idea. Maybe I can get a smaller more decorative fence to put in front of it.

We also have our potted plant gardens figured out too. I bought four matching teal pots for the front steps which I’m going to fill with pink geraniums. And we’re going to line all the back steps with pots filled with herbs. Those are Caden’s specialty. We are also planning on planting two apple trees somewhere in the back yard and a lemon tree for in the house. Lots to do!! I’ve never considered myself ANY good at gardening, but it’s an ongoing project that the boys are actually interested in, so we’re going to run with it!

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After lunch we drove to Shopko and True Value to try and find more black mulch without needing to leave town, but didn’t have any luck. So it was another quiet afternoon at home. In between games and everything, we were also checking out all the things from their Easter baskets. They were having a ton of fun with those water beads. I’m not quite sure what you’re supposed to do with them, but we were putting them in balloons to make squishy balls.

We had dinner, which I actually made, and then Caden and I took Annie to the dog park for our final spring break activity.

Overall, it was an even quieter spring break than I was expecting. I mean, my kids really do seem to appreciate low key, minimal effort activities. All they really want to do is play video games or play outside. Preferably at parks or playgrounds where they’re the only kids around. They both seem to love the dog park and watching all the dogs interact in between finding new trees to climb and holes to dig and sticks to fight with. So they probably did everything they wanted to do this break. I’m just disappointed, as always, that we didn’t do more. I really tried to give them a lot of my attention, avoided work, and tried to make the most of it. But I am actually sad to send them back to school tomorrow. Though that sadness gives me hope for summer! I’ve been in a bit of a panic realizing that school is done in a month and a half. But it’ll be okay. Chaotic, but okay. 🙂

Moving On

Well, I’m not writing a Sunday Intentions post this week, since it’s already Tuesday night. But catching up on some of the topics from my last few posts…

Soccer starts tomorrow. We decided to leave Caden in with the first and second grade group. It seemed like the right decision. But then this afternoon the director emailed me to tell me she moved Caden to the third and fourth grade group so he could be with his friends. At this point it seemed like I would be super obnoxious to tell her no, move him back, so I guess that’s what we’re doing. It will surely be more challenging for him, but hopefully more fun since he will be with his friends. It also means a third night a week of soccer, including actual games. But only a six week time frame, so hopefully we can all handle it! Even though those six weeks fall into the busiest six weeks of our year!!

Today marks our third full week of having Annie. Even though those first two weeks were very rough on me emotionally, this past week everything has seemed to really settle down. She’s part of the family. We all love her. The boys have SO much fun playing with her every day. I’m still mildly stressed about leaving her in the kennel when I’m going to be gone for longer periods of time, but…that’s life. Now that she’s destroyed everything that was within reach, I’m hopeful that she’s actually settling down for a bit. She does go in there occasionally to sleep during the day, so it’s not like she’s scared of it. The morning we were going to go the egg hunt and didn’t, I already had her in the kennel, so I just left her in there for awhile and she was snoozing away. So hopefully she just needs to get used to the idea herself. Overall, all my hesitancy about her is gone. She really adds a lot of love to our family!

As for the rest of the week ahead…I need to get back on track! I seriously need to sit down and get to work. That’s my goal for tomorrow. I’d like to get the mulch bought and laid out too, so ONE of many gardening projects is done. I also want to get Easter decorations put away and the house cleaned up again. I keep daydreaming about having clean countertops. Maybe I can make that happen. Or maybe I should just schedule a party because that’s the only time the house ever gets truly clean!! I’m also looking forward to hopefully going to the Dane County Farmer’s Market this Saturday. It’s been a long winter without that bit of weekly fun!

And that’s it!

Spring Break 2017: Part One

Well, the first few days of spring break have come and gone. I was hoping to fill this week with a lot of really fun memories with the boys. I had zero intention of working over break. I was fully dedicated to spending the days out and about having adventures with them. We couldn’t go on vacation, we couldn’t even leave the house for long periods of time because of Annie. But we could still try and make the most of it.

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Wednesday

Spring Break started at 11:30 on Wednesday, when I met Caden at school for the special second grader’s VIP Lunch. Each kid was allowed to invite just one guest to eat hot dogs with them. I was his VIP by default, since it made the most sense – what else did I have going on? But I felt bad when I realized this replaced the original Donuts with Dads second graders used to do.

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But still, it was nice to be his special person for a small amount of time. All of the kids made placemats for their VIPs. Then we got our hot dog and ate. As a special treat, the students were allowed to leave with their parent as soon as we were done eating. So Caden was done with school about 45 minutes before Shepard. We just waited around the playground, though.

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Right after school I wanted to get the dog park because Annie was alone while I was at the lunch and she was going to be alone for a good chunk of the evening. The boys went willingly when I promised they could play video games the rest of the afternoon. It was nice to finally have such a pleasant weather day!

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Climbing trees is one of their favorite dog park activities.

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Our friends met up with us for a doggy/kid/mom play date!

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The kids also love digging in the holes the dogs have left.

After the dog park the boys played their games while I read. Then we drove to Sun Prairie for a hand off of children, so Greg and I could have a date. We were planning to get the special $10 take out pizza at Salvatore’s and eat it at a park. But Annie threw off my concentration by being super difficult about getting back in her kennel for the second time that day. So I forgot to bring drinks for our picnic, and a coat as it was getting chilly again. We ended up eating there. Much more than a $10 dinner! But it was nice. We were both really tired and dragging, though, so just went home and lazed on the couch the rest of the night. I even fell asleep at 6:30 while watching a show. Pretty lame date night. We’re very boring.

Thursday

I guess I didn’t take any pictures on Thursday. It was a pretty low key day. Rainy and chilly. We had plans to meet up with my mom and Pip to do the next round of dog introductions. We went to the dog park first, assuming it’d be empty like every other daytime I’ve gone. Instead it was packed! So Annie and Pip met through the fence – didn’t go well. We came back to our house to go for a walk. Still didn’t go well. When they were actually walking, it wasn’t so bad. But the rest of the time Pip was viciously trying to get Annie. So…they have not been approved to spend time together yet. Unfortunately. 🙁

The rest of the day was very lazy. I was so tired. Seems to be the theme of my life ever since getting Annie. Or ever since having kids?? I just couldn’t stay awake. So I napped, they gamed. In the last afternoon we watched a Smurfs movie.

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Friday

On Friday, I was determined to have a day of adventure. Greg was working at home, so we both had an excuse to stay out of the house as long as possible, and I didn’t have to worry about Annie because he grudgingly said he’d take care of her potty breaks. The boys were pretty reluctant to leave because Daddy’s presence, even when he’s working, is always top priority for them! But we made it out the door.

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First stop was Hurt’s Donuts in Middleton. Quite the drive for some donuts! I heard there might be a donut shop opening on the east side, which would be really awesome. At any rate, I was reading all the reviews and so many people complained about Hurt’s. But I wanted to check it out for myself. The wait was pretty long (maybe 15 minutes to get through the four or five groups of people ahead of us), and the selection seemed big, but almost none of the flavors had signs, so you just had to guess what you were getting. The boys were not adventurous at all, just wanting the simple glazed crullers and sprinkled donuts. I wanted the last maple bacon (look at all that bacon), but of course it wasn’t allowed to be included in the 12 for $15 box. But I bought it anyway. Anyway, besides the maple bacon, they were all cake donuts. And much more dessert-y than breakfast-y. Mine was way too sweet to be eaten that early in the morning. But I’ve enjoyed the tastes of the other ones later on!

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Next stop was a park. I didn’t time things very well. I wanted to get to Costco right when it opened because I assumed it’d be insane. But we still had an hour to kill before then. So we just googled our way to the nearest park and the boys played for awhile. Shepard was so excited, even though the playground was pretty small. It makes me sad to realize the ways we’ve been taking away his childhood, just because he’s the younger child. We almost never go to parks anymore. And lately Greg’s been getting so irritated that Shepard never wants to listen to the chapter books they read at night. Of course he doesn’t, he’s only six! He wants pictures and shorter stories! Anyway, I’m going to try and make it a higher priority to find our ways to more parks this summer. They seem to use their imaginations best when we’re at them.

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Caden got sick of the park, so we ran to Marshall’s for a few minutes. Then Costco. Which was definitely crazy. And made worse because I had kids with me, of course. They both wanted to be in the cart, which did contain them, but also made it SO MUCH HARDER to push and control. I’ve never gone through the store so fast. No dilly-dallying, just actually getting what I needed and leaving! Except that Shepard really wanted a hot dog for lunch. So he could have a churro for dessert. I kept saying he didn’t need a churro since we had a whole box of donuts in the car. But he was very insistent and he hasn’t been to Costco with me since summer, so I figured we could make it happen. Caden wasn’t thrilled, but I got a hot dog for him too.

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Meanwhile, I was saving up for Mod Pizza! I’m guessing this restaurant opened pretty recently since I haven’t heard anything about it. But it’s right by where Greg works and the other day he decided to check it out. And then he talked about it all week. So of course since I was in that area of the city, I wanted to try it too. It was so good! I did the build your own and picked red tomato sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, sweet hot peppers, green peppers, roasted garlic, and then a big swirl of sri-rancha sauce which really pulled it all together and made it taste AMAZING. I don’t find myself in Fitchburg very often, but I’m totally going there every time I’m in the area from now on!

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I took the pizza to go and ate at a big park. Unfortunately, we all needed to use the bathroom and they didn’t have one. Why do gigantic parks not have bathrooms?! I was most angry because Shepard actually seemed willing to use a public bathroom by his own choice, and there wasn’t a bathroom in sight! We ended up just driving back home after that.

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After a few hours chilling at home (and bugging Greg nonstop while he worked), we went to the dog park again. We’ve spent a lot of time there this past week! It’s a good place for everyone to wear off energy, though. I love seeing Annie have so much fun with her new dog friends (she’s up to 54, according Shepard, who has been keeping track). But it’s stressful too, because in the last few days a lot of people have been bringing their mean dogs and trying to isolate them in the little dog area. But they need to get from the main door to the door to the little area and Annie is always SO excited about each new dog that comes in, she refuses to leave them alone. I witnessed a pretty major dog fight and some very mean dog owners in the last few days. But I’ve also met some super friendly people that basically live for their dogs. You just never know what you’re going to get!

Saturday

Saturday was a pretty awful day. Which sucks, because I was really looking forward to it. Last year on the day before Easter, the boys and I hit up three egg hunts in a row. The early morning hunt at Pick ‘n Save, the Culver’s hunt where we got around 20 free ice cream tokens, and the big park egg hunt. It was one of my fondest memories of last year. Which is why I was really excited to do the two smaller hunts (park went early last weekend this year) again. I thought the boys were excited too.

But then morning came. And of course they were both awake with plenty of time to get ready. But did they? Of course not. Caden started crying and screaming that I keep making him go to so many stupid places. EVERY SINGLE TIME I try to take him anywhere, no matter how fun it might be, it’s basically akin to a death sentence in his mind. This is how he reacts. EVERY TIME. And it sucks. Big time. I get being an introvert. I’m definitely one and I love being at home too. But I also like making memories and experiencing life. Especially really fun holiday traditions like small town egg hunts around the city. I can’t understand why absolutely everything sounds like such a terrible thing to him. Restaurants? Nope. Grandma’s house? Nope. Parks and playgrounds? No way. Vacations? Absolutely not. He hates all things. And he ruins it for everybody else.

I was teetering on just leaving him home and taking Shepard. But then Shepard announced that he’d go, but he wasn’t going to look for any eggs or candy. And that point I just lost it with both of them. I started screaming that Easter was cancelled. I was writing a note to the Easter Bunny and telling him not to come to our house. The boys didn’t even flinch. Zero reaction. So I wrote the note. They couldn’t have cared less. At this point I was crying and yelling about how much they were hurting my feelings and ruining Easter. They just continued to sit on the couch and ignore me. Not by best parenting moments, but I was so, so disappointed in them.

What happened to my KIDS? When did they stop getting excited about new adventures? Years ago? How am I ever going to survive the pre-teen and teenage years when they have so much power to hurt me at this age? Caden is just the worst sometimes. Seriously, he is. And I HATE that his negativity is starting to influence how Shepard sees the world too. Shepard used to be up for anything, anytime. He doesn’t seem to feel that way anymore.

Anyway. We didn’t go to either egg hunt, to my severe disappointment. I spent most of my day crying, reading (the entire book Thirteen Reasons Why – great book, but probably not the best day to be reading about suicide), cuddling or walking Annie, baking desserts and four batches of mostly failed rolls for tomorrow, or hiding out in my room. I didn’t talk to anyone all day. As usual, my presence is basically non-existent when the entire family is home. If I didn’t feed them, they wouldn’t notice my absence. It’s a sucky role to play. And I seem stuck in it. Especially since all my attempts to go out and have fun tend to backfire. I took away their video games for the rest of spring break. After the initial anger, they still seemed to have a happy carefree day hanging out with Daddy. Mom’s having a horrible day? Nobody cares. Nobody notices.

Okay, so enough self pity. It’s 8:30 pm on Saturday. I’m still very tempted to cancel Easter. Neither kid even mentioned it all day. They don’t care! About anything! Why in the world did I spend so much time trying to curate such awesomely filled Easter baskets for them? Shepard hasn’t even touched almost any of his birthday presents from two months ago. There are still piles of Christmas presents in both of their rooms that they haven’t even looked at yet. They need nothing, they care about nothing. But can I assume that tomorrow morning maybe they will? At least a little? I don’t genuinely want to destroy their Easter. But I’m not feeling a whole lot of goodwill toward them and making it special anymore either.

So, halfway through spring break. I’m not feeling very optimistic about the remaining days. I really, really, wanted to try and do some fun, yet low key things. I wanted to at least eat at Ponderosa, since they originally requested it. But now I also kind of want to just punish them by making them stay home, eat crappy food, and not have any type of screen time whatsoever. I don’t know. Hopefully Easter will turn out to be great and I’ll feel a lot better about making the remaining two days of break more fun.

Mixed Feelings

Caden Reading

This is a post about our trip to Chicago yesterday. But it’s also a post about parenting a challenging child and all the yucky feelings that come with it. Words that will surely backfire on me and make me even more unpopular with my extended family, but I’m going to say them anyway.

So. We went to Chicago yesterday to visit my sister-in-law Melissa and her boyfriend Andrew. They’re unable to come to Shepard’s birthday party next weekend and we haven’t seen them in awhile – or visited Chicago in a couple of years. Shockingly, the boys were great on the drive there. I expected nonstop whining and complaining the way they could barely handle the hour long drive to the Dells last weekend. But Shepard mostly just looked out the window and relaxed and Caden spent most of the drive reading the entirety of a book. A book we bought at a book fair earlier this week because I thought he’d like it. Even though at the time he was having a meltdown because “books are stupid! books are dumb! I hate reading!”

shepard card

Shepard got to open an early birthday present.

shepard open

A marble run – something he’s been saying he really wanted for the last few months because it’s his favorite thing to play with at school.

dog butt

Melissa and Andrew were dog sitting, so we had some fun doggy entertainment. 🙂

greg caden perni

Dogs always know I want them to try and convince Greg to be a dog lover! I don’t think it’s ever going to happen. But I’m still hoping to sway him. Dogs are the best and I fully intend on owning one some day.

After the apartment tour (which was adorable) and hanging out for a few minutes, we went to a restaurant down the street for lunch. Which is when Caden turned the switch from being eight year old well behaved child to monstrous whiny brat for most of the rest of the day. It always just takes one tiny thing to set him off and ruin a day. Yesterday it started because he wanted to sit in a big upholstered booth and there wasn’t enough room for all of us. So we compromised to a half booth, half table and he sat in the booth. But then he realized he wasn’t sitting by Daddy, which is basically the end of the world. Sometimes I worry about how unhealthy his obsession is with being by Daddy ALL THE TIME. So he switched chairs, but then threw a fit because he was in a chair instead of the booth side. I eventually switched with him. I didn’t give in right away because at some point in life he needs to learn he can’t always have everything exactly the way he wants it. But shame on me, because I held out too long and ruined him for the rest of the day. He pouted through lunch and didn’t eat anything. Then he said he felt sick from the car ride, which ended an hour earlier.

map

The only planned activity for our day was to ride the train to the Wrigley Field stop. Shepard’s never been on a train before and was really excited about it. So excited that he ran full speed into a crosswalk and came extremely close to being hit by a speeding car making a turn in front of us. Sometimes it blows my mind how completely unprepared my kids are for being in a big city, even for a day. I thought once we lived in town they’d at least know how to stop at intersections and look both ways before crossing the street. But they don’t have a clue. They run everywhere, they are constantly pushing and shoving each other, they never pay ANY attention to the potential dangers around them. It’s so stressful. And when we try to remind them to be more careful, or hold their hands, or grab them before they’re about to be hit by a car, they retaliate with anger and even more carelessness.

shepard train

We were only on the train for three stops, but Shepard was having the greatest time. 🙂 He talked nonstop about what he saw out the window. Then he decided to stand up and “surf.” I grabbed him multiple times right before he slammed into the man standing behind him, which I’m pretty sure he was completely unaware of. It was nice to see him having so much fun, though. He was pretty delightful the entire day.

cubs

champions

The weather was amazing yesterday. I think it was around 50 degrees and Chicago didn’t have any snow or giant puddles, like we have here. It was the perfect day for a leisurely walk around Wrigley Field. Except for Caden, who whined and moaned the entire time. He’s just not happy doing anything out and about. Ever. And he can never just quietly go along with things. He has to make sure everybody knows he’s miserable and he’s not going to be happy until we’re miserable too. This was almost our entire trip to San Francisco in October. He was pretty well behaved at the few big family events (wedding, rehearsal, dinners). So nobody could understand why we were having a pretty crappy trip overall. The reason? Caden. Always Caden, always making everything SO difficult. He never wants to do anything, he never wants to experience what the world has to offer, he never wants to enjoy himself. It makes vacations absolutely suck.

The worst part about him acting like that, especially when we’re on trips with other people, is that it automatically turns me into the mean mom. I have to be in mom mode all the time. I try really hard to do whatever my kids need to keep them happy in the moment. Like battles over food at restaurants? It’s not going to happen because it’s not worth the outcome after a fight like that. But when my kids start being absolute brats and treating everybody like crap? I can’t just let it slide. When Caden was younger it was a lot easier to excuse behavior like this and still have fun. But he knows better now. And that makes everything worse.

printer

We were walking around Wrigley Field and there was a fan shop with a man embroidering a jersey in the window. So we eventually went in and Shepard stood and watched.

penny machine

Grandpa and the boys had to get Cubs pennies. Noe’s are Cubs fans, if you haven’t figured that out yet. I’m not, but I don’t care enough to protest them, especially after everyone’s excitement over the World Series last fall.

new shirt

Shepard really wanted a Cubs shirt. He doesn’t have any, so I helped him look through the kids section. It was so cute how carefully he was picking through every shirt to try and find one in his size with a nice enough picture. He was so proud of his (Grandpa’s!) purchase that he had to put the shirt on immediately after we left the store.

train

Train ride back, Shepard is still enthralled.

dog pile

More doggy love. I never really understood the corgi obsession, but Perni was pretty cute!

marble run

We spent the rest of the afternoon just hanging out while the boys and Andrew worked on building the marble run.

silly

tall marble run

birthday cupcakes

And finally, an early birthday treat. I think Shepard had a fantastic day. 🙂

Fortunately, we were all so tired on the way back that the boys slept most of the way. I’ve never seen them so well behaved for six hours in the car – almost none of that actually playing tablet.

Anyway. Back at home now and having mixed feelings about another day that could have been really awesome, but was ruined – at least to me – by Caden’s attitude. He’s always been a challenging child and we’ve gone through many, many phases of him being violent and angry. But for awhile things seemed to be going pretty well. I thought he was finally growing up. And then days like this happen. And last weekend at the Dells in the game room. And almost every night when he has panic attacks over not having enough time to do whatever it is he wanted to do that night. His anxiety levels over everything are so high. It reminds me a lot of myself when I can’t get to the things I really want to do in a day. But I’m an adult and can usually contain my stress a whole lot better.

Caden’s been miserable with school the last few months. He actually got in trouble at school a couple days ago, for the first time ever. I don’t know what to do with him. And maybe this sounds terrible, but I hate how much I feel like his attitude and the way he’s been treating people, reflect directly on how clearly I must be failing as a parent. It can’t be true, at least not entirely, because Shepard doesn’t have these problems. He does have stubborn fits usually over food he doesn’t want to eat, but for the most part he’s a sunny and funny and delightful and caring person to be around. So two years later we’re doing things right with him? That doesn’t make sense. But it doesn’t stop me from feeling like such a failure. And from feeling like other people must surely blame me for the way Caden acts. He’s my son, he has my genes, and sometimes he has a lot of my personality. Shepard has all the best of Greg’s personality and then some. Caden has all the worst of my personality and more. Therefore this continues to feel like it’s all my fault.

I could ramble on about this for a long time, but I’ll stop now. I just wish we could have more good days. Especially when we’re out with extended family. He feels comfortable enough to act the way he does at home with us. At least with friends or at school he’s a lot better at containing himself. I just wish people could understand how hard this sometimes feels. I feel very alone in these challenges and some days are just plain tough.

Struggling

I’ve had a lot going through my mind the last few weeks and I’m to the point where I feel like I’m going to explode if I don’t get some of it out, even if nobody reads this or nobody cares.

Life has been HARD lately. Very hard. We have been having some major difficulties with Caden and I feel like it’s tearing us all apart. I’m on the fence about if I should keep these battles private or if I should share them and perhaps find some support in other people that might be going through the same battles. The problem is that I feel like when I do start to share, the majority of people think I must be exaggerating or start to attack me for daring to say something negative about my child. People don’t believe me and I think that’s one of the hardest things to deal with.

The truth is, Caden has become a very angry and very violent child. He’s not like this at school, he’s not usually like this around strangers or extended family. But at home? It’s a completely different story. Caden hits, kicks, pinches, spits, bites, and throws things at me on a daily basis. Usually many, many, MANY times a day.  He does the same to Greg and the worst part – he does the same to Shepard. The other day Caden was hitting me with an umbrella. His newest thing is throwing objects at me, most often – kitchen chairs. He’s five years old. And he’s throwing kitchen chairs at me. I am devastated by what this is putting everybody through and I’m terrified of what he’s going to be like when he’s older if he continues on this path.

We shared some of our concerns with Caden’s pediatrician last month and she strongly suggested we start seeing a therapist to help Caden deal with his anger. For the last few weeks we’ve been going to a therapist now and though she seems to have some great ideas, Caden’s behavior has amplified considerably with the changes we’ve made. It’s getting harder and harder to see the good things in him when he spends so much of his day screaming at and attacking me. I feel very hopeless and very alone.

I love Caden and I always will. But we’ve had so many emotional struggles during his short life. We’ve struggled – and still struggle with – his speech apraxia and inability to be understood by most people, at least the first and second time he repeats himself. I know he must be hurting too in ways I probably can’t understand. He’s frustrated and feels like the only time he can let that go is in the safety of his own home. But…he’s hurting us. Physically, emotionally, deeply. I just wish it didn’t have to be this way.